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Job Photographs

  • A woman is pressing a button on a control panel.  There is a large machine behind the control panel.

    Polymer technologists work in the plastics and rubber industry. Here, a polymer technologist is using computer controlled machinery to mix two materials together to produce a polymer.

  • Somebody is using a piece of scientific equipment, in order to carry out an experiment.

    A polymer technologist uses specialist equipment to investigate how PVC solidifies when frozen.

  • A man is using a machine.

    Injection moulding of rubber rings used for sealing mechanical parts.

  • A man is using an electronic control panel in order to carry out an experiment.

    Polymer technologists use computer controlled machinery to test the strength of polymers.

  • Polymer Technologist

Polymer Technologist

Introduction

Polymer technologists oversee the processing of plastics and rubber to meet customer demands. They work in research, production, technical service or quality control departments.

Also known as

  • Materials Technologist, Polymers
  • Plastics Technologist
  • Rubber Technologist

Video: - Val: Polymer Technologist

Work Activities

As a Polymer Technologist, you will work in the plastics and rubber industry that manufacture goods, ranging from road surfacing to medical products. You know all about the structure of polymer materials.

Polymer Technologists who work in research departments are responsible for running projects. You decide upon the most appropriate approach to any problem that arises, supervise laboratory staff and generally oversee the project. You also write reports on the work that is carried out.

There are two main long-term aims of research:

  • to increase knowledge of the properties and structure of existing polymers
  • to develop polymers and compounds with new properties

Polymer Technologists who work in production try to improve the production process and sort out any problems. You may think about new materials and machinery that could be used. You find out if these would reduce costs, increase productivity or improve the quality of the final product.

Technologists also improve current products and try to extend the range of uses of polymer materials.

Polymer Technologists in technical service departments respond to customers' requests for polymer materials with specific qualities, such as extra strength or impact resistance.

Technologists working in process control departments make sure that the quality of raw materials and finished products is maintained. You may supervise Technicians or perform some quality tests yourself. You also check that test equipment is up to standard.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Polymer Technologist, you will need:

  • knowledge and ability in science, especially chemistry
  • to be good at solving problems
  • good number skills
  • a thorough understanding of polymers and polymer processing technology
  • to pay attention to detail
  • IT skills, including some experience of CAD and CAM packages
  • to be able to communicate well with other people, such as other Scientists, Engineers, Technicians and Operatives

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £30,000 - £34,000
  • With experience: £37,000 - £45,500
  • Senior Polymer Technologists earn £50,000 - £54,000

Hours of work

Polymer Technologists usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Occasional late finishes may be required, and shift work is common in production operations.

Where could I work?

The main employers are multinational polymer processing companies.

Opportunities for Polymer Technologists occur with firms based throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Universal Jobmatch, and at Jobcentre Plus.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

You may need a degree to enter this career. Courses in materials technology and related subjects are useful for people wanting to become Polymer Technologists. Relevant courses are available at various universities and colleges of higher education throughout the UK.

It may also be possible to become a Polymer Technologist by studying for a degree in chemistry or a related subject.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

It might also be possible to become a polymer technologist from a HNC, HND or foundation degree in a subject related to chemistry.

An Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

Training

People coming from relevant degree courses will have received some training as part of their course. There will be some training on-the-job.

Various institutions offer relevant postgraduate courses related to polymer technology or polymer engineering.

Work Experience

Practical skills gained in industrial work are often valued by employers.

Progression

Progression will usually be to managerial positions.

Polymer technology is a large area so opportunities for progression are generally good. Some people move into quality control positions, or into design, for example.

Qualifications

To do a relevant degree, you will usually need:

  • 2/3 A levels or equivalent; physics and chemistry will be useful
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in your A level subjects
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above

Other qualifications are often acceptable as alternatives to A levels, for example:

  • BTEC level 3 qualifications
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma

However, entry requirements for different courses vary, so check university prospectuses for more details.

To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Skills/experience

Practical skills gained in industrial work are often valued by employers.

Working as a polymer technician can lead on to entry into technologist-level posts.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course could be the way in. No formal qualifications are usually required, but you should check individual course details.

It might be possible to enter this career following an Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Polymer Processing Operations.

Funding

Financial support is available through universities for postgraduate courses from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

  • 6% of people in this career work part-time.
  • 17% have flexible hours.
  • 5% work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

The Engineer

Engineering technology news

Email: customerservices@theengineer.co.uk

Website: www.theengineer.co.uk

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET

Tel: 01793 444000

Website: www.epsrc.ac.uk

British Plastics Federation

Address: BPF House, 6 Bath Place, Rivington Street, London EC2A 3JE

Tel: 020 7457 5000

Email: reception@bpf.co.uk

Website: www.bpf.co.uk

Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)

Address: 1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB

Tel: 020 7451 7300

Website: www.iom3.org

Cogent Skills

Science industries

Address: Unit 5, Mandarin Court, Centre Park, Warrington, Cheshire WA1 1GG

Tel: 01925 515200

Website: www.cogent-ssc.com

Department of Materials

Address: Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU

Tel: 01509 223331

Email: materials@lboro.ac.uk

Website: www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/materials

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

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